A Year With Bees
Since the beginning of our relationship we’ve embraced the concept of incorporating both playfulness and adventure into our daily lives. It began with our shared love of nature as we took up hiking, camping, and bicycling. And it wasn't long before we began to consider how our creative hobbies like writing, sewing, photography and woodcarving could be a deeply gratifying source of play and adventure as well. If you follow our instagram @EZTravelBlog this won’t come as any surprise but one of the adventures we’ve been buzzing about for the last year is our new colony of bees that live in the corner of our backyard. Although this was not Emily's first experience keeping bees, in fact she's had multiple colonies before, it would be her first bees on this property and Zach's first time altogther!
All that said, in May 2021 we visited Chad at Next To Nature Farm and picked up our nuc (short for nucleus hive; like a family) and brought them home. For those interested, Next To Nature Farm, located in Tonganoxie, KS, is a wonderful resource for beekeeping as well as a working farm with classes and sustainably made products. Check them out at www.nexttonaturefarm.com! We even picked up a few tomato plants before we left that day. We were reaping heirloom tomatoes well into October.
So we got the bees into the car, back to our home and into their new hive. Here’s a video of that day! We started taking in as much information as we could about this adventure in flying livestock.
One of the first things we did was become members of our local beekeeping organization, Northeast Kansas Beekeepers Association (NEKBA), and started attending regular meetings. The NEKBA meetings were on Zoom and allowed for us to learn a lot quickly. We also signed up for the “Year One” beekeeping class they provide each spring. This was invaluable. Let's not discount the utility of books either. Emily already had a nice selection for us to look through. Her hands-down favorite is The Rooftop Beekeeper by Megan Paska and we also like The Practical Beekeeper by Michael Bush.
We consumed all the podcasts, books, interviews and and attended every meeting we could! We kept notes and tried to stay attentive to the bees, doing our best to apply all this newfound knowledge throughout the summer and into fall. Although we hoped for honey, we decided pretty early on that if we had any hesitancy about it we’d decline taking honey this year to allow the colony a better chance at surviving the winter.
Our honey super (a smaller addition added to a hive, typically for storage of honey) ended up without any honey by fall so we pulled it off so the bees wouldn't have to worry about this empty space. We then administered a couple doses of a medicine called Apiguard. It is used to help reduce the prevalence of varroa mites, a parasite that lives and feeds on bees. We really wanted to keep any varroa mites in check going into winter.
The winter is rough for bees and humans alike. Bees are very sensitive to cold and spend a lot of time and energy keeping warm in the frigid months which means we didn’t see them often. Our first warm day in January we were relieved beyond words to see hundreds of bees shuffling in and out of the hive, not yet bringing back any pollen, but alive and ready to get to work!
Now in February, we’ve fed them a few times the last two weeks using a sugar water mixture. In our climate it's a bit too early for any substantial nectar flow so it's important to provide a source of energy until more plants are blooming and we have consistently warm days. Let's fast forward to February 21st where we just had the warmest day this year reaching 67º F! We went out at lunch to find hundreds of happy bees flying about and bringing back a dark yellow pollen. We feel confident saying the bees have successfully overwintered! After so many months of wonder and hopeful anticipation seeing the colony alive and well has been a welcome relief. Stay tuned as we have big plans for this colony in 2022!
We'd love to hear from you if you keep bees or have any advice or questions for us!